Heather Peace’s bumpy exit from “Waterloo Road”

 
 

**Contains spoilers for Waterloo Road, Series 9**

In January, it was announced that Waterloo Road actress Heather Peace (who played lesbian character Nikki Boston) would be leaving the series to focus on her musical career. Fans were certainly disappointed, but hoped for the best when it came to closing out Nikki’s storyline. Shortly thereafter, reports surfaced that Nikki would be involved in a love triangle with girlfriend Vix and fellow teacher Hector, disappointing some fans at what was seen as a tropey turn of events. As a viewer, my default is always that story is king. Unfortunately, what followed was an uneven season with a slapdash resolution that felt neither satisfying, nor worthy of Nikki’s journey.

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When the second half of the season begins, Nikki is head over heels for new girlfriend, Vix. Vix, the sister of Nikki’s colleague, Sue, is beautiful, smart and totally smitten with Nikki. Things move at breakneck speed, and after just a short time, the two women are planning a future together. When Vix presents Nikki with a bracelet, Nikki’s strong feeling rise to the surface, and she proposes to Vix in front of all of her colleagues and friends at the local bar.

During this time, a new teacher named Hector comes on the scene. Right away, Nikki catches his eye and he pursues her relentlessly. At first, Nikki makes light of his advances. She’s a. engaged and b. engaged to a lady. Hector is even witness to the proposal. Hector unfortunately suffers from what I like to call Chasing Amy Effect. The though and mission that with the right combination of persistence and patience, you can move out of the friend zone and right in to a gay lady’s pants. And persist he does.

During an outdoor wilderness retreat, Hector and Nikki find themselves alone. After posing without his shirt on and amping up the flirtation, Hector kisses Nikki at the campground. Nikki appears shocked, especially when Vix, who is chaperoning the event, narrowly misses witnessing the encounter. This entire time, Nikki never gives any indication that she sees Hector as anything more than a friend, which makes the events that follow so confusing.

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After a troubled student named Gabriella, who is obsessed with Hector nearly drowns on the trip, Hector is disciplined by the school. An attempt by Nikki to comfort Hector quickly turns into more kissing, initiated this time by Nikki. The two end up sleeping together, and when they arrive at the school the next morning together, Gabriella suspects there is something between them. A very guilty feeling Nikki tries to keep the dalliance a secret, but when Vix comes to the school to give a workshop, Gabriella makes an accusation and Nikki cracks. Vix keeps it cool in front of the students, but confronts Nikki and breaks things off. Nikki is devastated, and chases Vix through the halls, exposing the situation to unsuspecting students. Hector even tries to block Vix’s path, but she leaves and Nikki is left to deal with the fall out.

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For the next few episodes, a devastated Nikki tries to get back into Vix’s good graces, but working with Vix’s very angry sister Sue isn’t helping. Eventually Nikki gets a letter into Vix’s hand. Hector still pushes at Nikki for something more, but she rebukes him, calling their affair a mistake.

In Nikki’s final episode, which aired last week, she finds out that Vix has decided to cut her losses and move to Berlin to mend her broken heart. Nikki is crestfallen, and reaches out via text message. That day, the same troubled student, Gabriella, purposely injures a star athletic student with whom Nikki has mentored. Nikki pulls Gabriella into an empty classroom to find out why, and taking advantage of the situation, Gabriella fakes being sexually assaulted by Nikki. Nikki’s career is now in jeopardy because of a false accusation.

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When Vix hears about it, she runs to Nikki’s side and invites her to go to Berlin with her that night. Deeply conflicted, Nikki tells her she must stay and clear her name. Nikki is vindicated, but has had enough of the school and it’s drama. She tenders her resignation, and runs to Vix’s house, hoping to catch her before she leaves. Luckily for Nikki, she’s a fast runner.

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When Nikki arrives at Vix’s, she gives some much needed clarity as to why she cheated on her in the first place. Good old self-sabotage. Nikki claims that she was so scared of being happy with Vix, that she found a way to ruin it. Vix forgives her and they ride off into the Berliner sunset together.

Whenever a character that is thought of as a lesbian sleeps with a man, it inevitably ruffles feathers. Nikki has not been involved with a man since appearing on Waterloo Road, so the development was a bit shocking to some viewers. Nikki doesn’t seem to be flummoxed by the gender of her one night stand, and it would have been interesting to see her thought process on the subject. Perhaps Nikki is bisexual, or sexually fluid, but that is never really dealt with in a meaningful way.

Nikki would have self-destructed no matter what, and Hector was the person who was willing to take that trip with her. Would it have made more sense for Nikki to sleep with a woman? Probably. Perhaps the writers wanted to broach the subject of bisexuality or sexual fluidity, but they really missed their opportunity to tell that story. What I found unsettling was not the fact that Nikki slept with a man, but the inference that Hector has “worn her down basically,” as Heather Peace stated in an interview with Yahoo TV.  I found this particularly troubling, especially coming from Peace, who is a gay woman herself. There is an antiquated notion that lesbian attraction and relationships are not to be taken as seriously as our straight counterparts. Reinforcing that is careless.

I wish Waterloo Road had delved deeper into Nikki’s story, rather then having her mope and internalize for the later half of the season. Having her very messy storyline with Vix end so neatly tied with a bow, feels inauthentic.

What did you think about Nikki’s exit from Waterloo Road?

 
 

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